Week 7: Prototyping & Usability

In the realms of biology and science, it is customary to engage in a process of testing, discarding unsuccessful attempts, and commencing anew. Although this practice may seem intricate and even exhilarating for many involved, it has become the established norm. Interestingly, a similar approach holds true for the realm of good User Experience (UX) design. By continuously testing our designs and employing prototypes throughout the creative journey, we gain access to immensely valuable feedback. This feedback serves as a guiding light, illuminating potential improvements and ensuring a refined final product.

1. Building to test

This week we are beginning the process of turning our UX artefact wireframes into prototypes. I was glad to reach this stage as prototyping was one area that I have a lot of experience with to date having been a digital designer and developer, I was usually just left to crack on with building and designing, minus any of the design stages that we have covered so far in this module.

1.1 Self-criticism

Understanding the optimal timing for product testing and recognizing the importance of conducting frequent and regular tests on your product or website is a crucial process. However, it’s important to be mindful of becoming too engrossed in this process as you are personally involved in creating the prototypes. Being actively involved in the creation of prototypes can instil a sense of ownership and thus full control. Nevertheless, unless you step back and contemplate your position in the overall process and actively seek feedback from your users, this strong sense of ownership can result in tunnel vision, limiting your perspective and leading to a bad design potentially being forged.

To improve this in the future I shall set myself time-bound goals and apply them to my design process, time-bound goals, as discussed by Thompson and Davis (2021), provide individuals with a “clear timeline for accomplishing their objectives.” By setting deadlines and establishing milestones, learners can effectively “manage their time and allocate resources accordingly.” Time-bound goals create a sense of urgency, promoting a proactive approach to learning. Furthermore, having a structured timeframe encourages individuals to “prioritize their tasks and maintain a consistent level of effort throughout their journey,” ultimately leading to improved outcomes for the design feedback cycle.

2. The steps to testing

The testing process can be broken down into five main steps: planning, recruiting, conducting, analyzing, and reporting.

Plan: In the planning phase, I need to define the goals of my usability testing, what I want to learn, and how I will measure success. I will create a test plan that outlines the scope of the test, the testing methodology, the number of participants, and the tasks they will perform during the test.

Recruit: In the recruiting phase, I will identify and invite participants who represent my target audience. It’s important to ensure that I have a diverse group of participants who can provide different perspectives and insights. I can use various recruitment methods such as online panels, social media, or paid incentives to attract participants.

Conduct: In the conducting phase, I will run the usability test sessions with my participants. This involves setting up the test environment, explaining the purpose of the test, and guiding participants through a series of tasks while observing their behaviour and collecting feedback. I will make sure not to influence the participants or provide hints during the test. Users were given a link to my lo-fi wireframe (below) where I observed them and got real-time feedback on their use.

Analyze: In the analyzing phase, I will review the data collected during the usability test sessions. This involves reviewing the recorded video or screen captures, reviewing any written feedback from the participants, and analyzing the data to identify patterns and insights. I can use various tools and techniques such as affinity mapping, statistical analysis, or thematic analysis to analyze the data.

Report: In the reporting phase, I will share the results of my usability testing with my team or stakeholders. This involves creating a report that summarizes the findings, insights, and recommendations. It’s important to present the results in a clear and concise manner and provide actionable recommendations that can inform the design process.

Overall, these five steps provide a structured and systematic approach to usability testing, ensuring that you collect reliable data and insights that can inform your design decisions and improve the overall user experience of your product.

3. Interaction design

There are said to be five dimensions to interaction design, the areas I need to consider are:

  1. 🗣️ Words: Words are a crucial aspect of interaction design, as they help users understand the system and give feedback about their actions. Words can appear in labels, instructions, error messages, and more. Good interaction design involves using clear and concise language that is easy for users to understand.
  2. 🎨 Visual Representations: Visual representations include everything from icons and graphics to color schemes and typography. Visual design plays an important role in interaction design because it can help users understand the system and provide visual cues about how to interact with it. Good interaction design involves using visual representations that are aesthetically pleasing and communicate information effectively.
  3. 🪑 Physical Objects/Space: Physical objects and space refer to the physical components of a system, such as buttons, screens, and other tangible elements. Interaction design involves creating physical objects that are easy to use and understand, and arranging them in a way that makes sense for users.
  4. ⏰ Time: Time is a critical aspect of interaction design, as it influences how users perceive the system and how they interact with it. Interaction designers must consider factors such as response time, feedback time, and loading time when designing a system. Good interaction design involves creating a system that responds quickly and provides feedback in a timely manner.
  5. 🧑‍💻 Behaviour: Behaviour refers to the way users interact with a system and the way the system responds to their actions. Interaction design involves creating a system that is intuitive and easy to use, and that responds in a way that is predictable and consistent. Good interaction design involves designing a system that encourages desirable user behaviour and discourages undesirable behaviour.

One critical aspect of interaction design testing is the consideration of context and user diversity. As stated by Lazar, Feng, and Hochheiser (2021), user testing must include participants from diverse backgrounds, varying levels of technological expertise, and different age groups to capture a comprehensive range of perspectives. Interaction design testing ensures that the interface is accessible and usable by a wide array of users, regardless of their abilities or characteristics. By incorporating user diversity into testing, designers can uncover specific interaction design issues that may arise for different user groups and make informed design decisions to address them.

Conclusion

By getting users to give you feedback on your prototypes, it is providing you, the designer, with a form of critical reflection; this is part of a more extensive process that, as a professional, I should be using as a tool to improve my professional practice constantly, leading to better design decisions & implementation.

“In critical reflective practice, we create and re-create narratives of our lives from different perspectives, taking us to beyond our narrow point of view to perceive fresh possibilities. A significant value of this book is the way it offers strategies for creating this hall of mirrors (Schön, 1987)”

References

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. Jossey-Bass

Thompson, D., & Davis, C. (2021). The Role of Time-Bound Goals in Learning and Achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 33(4), 541-558.

Lazar, J., Feng, J. H., & Hochheiser, H. (2021). Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction (2nd ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.

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